When to Euthanize Dogs with Tracheal Collapse

Deciding on the correct time to euthanize your dog can be difficult. You want to ensure that your dog experiences the least amount of pain possible while still making sure that they get the most out of life. Different breeds and different ailments require a unique understanding to make sure that you are not putting your dog down prematurely.

Identifying the signs of a particular ailment or illness will allow you to make the right choice when deciding when to euthanize your dog. To help you identify those signs, we have compiled the information necessary to identify tracheal collapse in your dog. Through this information, you will be better equipped to decide the path forward when your dog experiences a tracheal collapse.

What is a tracheal collapse?

Tracheal collapse is when your dog’s trachea becomes obstructed or damaged in some way. Your dog’s trachea is made up of a collection of rings that are made of cartilage. These rings help hold the airway open so your dog can breathe easily. The trachea is the pathway that air travels from your dog’s mouth to their lungs. An open and undamaged trachea is vital for your dog’s well-being.

Tracheal collapse is when your dog’s airway becomes obstructed or damaged in any way. This can be due to a genetic weakness in your dog’s trachea that makes it fragile. The compromised trachea can become damaged very easily. Excessive force to your dog’s neck can cause the trachea to break and the airway to collapse.

If your dog wears a collar instead of a harness, it may also be at a higher risk for tracheal collapse. Tracheal collapse can be caused through blunt force trauma or an unintended accident that puts pressure on your dog’s neck. Most tracheal collapse in dogs is due to weakened cartilage in the trachea due to genetics.

Tracheal collapse in dogs is not always noticeable immediately. A dog with a collapsed trachea will have a honking cough that is very distinct from their normal cough. A honking cough is generally louder and more vocal than a normal cough.

Your dog may also be resistant to any type of exercise. The heavy movement will irritate the trachea and your dog will do all it can to try to remain inactive. You may also notice a heavy amount of panting or labored breathing in your dog because they cannot get the full amount of air through their airway.

Another sure sign of tracheal collapse in dogs is a blue tint to their gums. This signifies that your dog is not getting the proper amount of oxygen necessary to oxygenate its bloodstream.

Tracheal collapse is most commonly genetic. It is highly present in toy breeds and dogs of smaller sizes. These dogs do not create a strong enough cartilage to support their airway. Small dogs are often most affected by collars that cause damage to the neck. Dogs that are obese are also susceptible to tracheal collapse. This is because their tracheas are not strong enough to support a heavy amount of weight.

What can be done for a dog with collapsing trachea?

Depending on the severity of the collapse, a tracheal collapse will most commonly be treated with a cough suppressant. Your dog will get a prescription for a corticosteroid or a bronchodilator that will help ease the pressure in your dog’s airway. These can help ease the irritation in your dog’s throat and will help prevent any future damage to your dog’s trachea.

If these treatments do not work or your dog’s tracheal collapse is more severe, your veterinarian may suggest surgery for your dog. This surgery places prosthetic rings around your dog’s trachea that are meant to help support the airway and keep it open for easy breathing. This surgery has around a 75% success rate in previously healthy dogs. If your dog is over six years old, it may have a much lower success rate in surgery. This is a highly specialized surgery that will not be done everywhere and may be costly.

How can I help my dog with collapsing trachea?

In most cases, tracheal collapse can not be prevented. In these cases, the ailment is based on poor genetics that results in weak cartilage around the trachea. In these situations, the trachea will collapse on its own without much excessive external force.

You can lower the risk of tracheal collapse in your dog by using a body harness instead of a traditional collar. Collars can put excessive pressure on a dog’s neck that could result in damage to the trachea. If you frequently take your dog on walks, a harness will keep them secured to the leash and distribute the pressure through the dog’s abdomen rather than its neck.

If you have smaller dogs, it is also important to supervise them when around bigger dogs or children. The slightest force from a bigger animal can cause an already comprised trachea to collapse.

When to put down a dog with tracheal collapse

In unfortunate cases of tracheal collapse, medication will not help the dog’s condition. Surgery may not be an option if you are not near to a specialty center, cannot afford it, or your dog is too old to undergo a safe treatment. In these situations, if your dog is in clear discomfort and pain, euthanasia may be the most humane option.

If your dog is experiencing a constant cough that is limiting their ability, it may be best to put them down. If your dog is unable to move, eat, or exercise, their trachea may be causing them constant pain. Labored breathing may also be causing your dog an excessive amount of discomfort.

In these situations, it is best to euthanize your dog to minimize the pain that your dog is feeling. It can be a hard decision to make but euthanizing a dog with tracheal collapse can be the best option to preserve your dog’s happiness and quality of life. This will save you and your family from months of possible heartbreak and your dog from excessive pain.

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